ST. LOUIS - If Ivan Barbashev looked a little tentative at the start of his first NHL training camp last week, he sure doesn’t now.
“We had a talk with him,” captain David Backes said. “(We said) listen, you’re an NHL draft pick for a reason, you’re at an NHL camp for a reason - because you’re a good player. Start playing and stop thinking out there.
“That sank in for that scrimmage yesterday and he did a fine job.”
Barbashev will make his NHL preseason debut tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. at Scottrade Center, KMOX 1120 AM). The 6-foot, 180-pound center was selected in the second round (33rd overall) at the 2014 NHL Draft.
He’s expected to start the game on a line with Backes and T.J. Oshie.
“There’s going to be nerves,” Backes said. “The first period he’s probably not going to know what the heck is going on. But by the second and third, with his skills and abilities, we’ll keep talking to him and try to make him comfortable.”
“I’m going to play 100 percent,” Barbashev said after the morning skate. “I’m feeling way better right now than the first two days because I was nervous to play with them at first. Right now I’m feeling way better. I’m really really excited to play this game tonight. I’ll be ready for sure.”
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said he’s been impressed with the 18-year-old Moscow native. Hitchcock said his strength with the puck and his quickness in tight spaces has stood out.
“He’s a confident guy but he’s not cocky,” Hitchcock said. “He’s very sincere and he really picks things up quick. I am really, really impressed.”
Barbashev has spent the last two seasons with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Moncton Wildcats. Last season, he scored 25 goals and 43 assists (68 points) in 48 games. In six playoff appearances last season with Moncton, he tallied four goals and six assists (10 points).